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Leadership Thought #307 – Never Become Too Important To Your Business

February 28, 2012

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Your business should be able to run reasonably well without you.  I’ve met (and coached) many business owners through the years who admit that if something happened to them the company would have a tough time continuing operations for any extended period. This always makes me nervous. Leadership isn’t about building dependency upon any one person. It is about getting a group of people working interdependently towards a common goal. Of course, it’s much harder to do this when you are small, but as you begin to grow and add staff, you should be constantly thinking about building operational redundancy and minimizing personnel/performance risk.

The best thing you can do for an employee is to teach him/her to think for themselves rather than do the work for them. People grow through solving their own problems and taking on additional responsibility. Everyone’s role and responsibilities should be clear to them, and they should understand the big picture and how all the various parts of the company fit together. In addition, training programs should be in place to ensure that all employees are regularly sharpening their skills and growing their business acumen. Your energy should be spent on creating a business environment that encourages individual initiative rather than worrying if people can do their job.

It’s a tricky thing for a leader to minimize and focus their own role while growing the role of others. There is a certain amount of personal validation that comes from being the main cog in the wheel. If everything runs through you there is this flawed sense of control that initially feels comforting. However, you can’t successfully grow a business this way. Things will quickly get out of hand as you try and multi-task your way through every issue. If you build a culture of dependency, people will wait for your input before doing anything of significance and there is only ever so much of you to go around. A long-term strategy of individual leader hyper-performance only leads to increased stress, growing fatigue, reactive decision making, and uneven accountability. If you are not careful, you will end up becoming the biggest obstacle to your own success.

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